Wednesday May 20 2009
Rocklin pair to face the best at national history competition
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
Web site by local teens on Hedy Lamarr sends them to National History Day championships in Maryland
Two Rocklin teens will represent not only their county, but also the state in the National History Day finals. Megan Opfer, 14, and Madelyn Starr, 13, were chosen from hundreds to be judged for a slot as national champions come mid-June in Maryland. Their project, a Web site about Hedy Lamarr, has been in the works for nine months now. Titled, The Beauty with the Brains, their project shares Lamarr’s vision of spread spectrum, also known as frequency hopping, something that is used in cell phones, computers and other technology still today, more than 30 years later. Although initially attracted to Lamarr for her looks when choosing their project topic, the teens learned she also had the brains. “She would rather people to have seen her as smart than beautiful,” Opfer said about Lamarr. “It blew me away.” Both girls will show off their Web site at the national finals, held at the University of Maryland mid-June, where they will have friends and family cheering them on. Spring View Middle School teacher Lynne Meiers was the coordinator for the Placer County National History Day event held March 6 at the school. Of the approximately 40 students who participated in the Placer County level, almost 10 others from Spring View went on to compete at the state level, held in Sacramento. “We were sitting there clutching each other,” Starr said. “The only spot left was first place.” When they called their number 1824, Starr said her mouth dropped. Approximately 34 counties competed in the competition and Starr and Opfer were among more than 40 others at the state finals, competing for the first-place spot for best Web site. Meiers said more than 1,000 students participated in the state competition, with the hotel ballroom packed. Their winning Web site will go on to be judged before the June 14 national finals. At the finals in Maryland, the girls will have the opportunity to answer judges’ questions about their design. Their design consists of black and white photos of Lamarr, quotes, three videos showing clips of her movie career and her son talking about spread spectrum, a paper explaining the steps they took to get the Web site up and running and a lengthy list of their sources – totaling more than 45 including books, Web sites, interviews and books. “This woman did something that affected everyone and nobody knew about it,” Starr said of Lamarr. Both girls said the “glamour girl” Lamarr was breaking down stereotypes about being beautiful and intelligent, which caught their attention initially. Opfer and Starr recently submitted their final Web site design to the judges of the national competition and will attend the finals with family, friend and classmate support. “This is without a doubt the best experience,” Opfer said. To view the Web site, visit www.beautywiththebrains.webs.com. Placer Herald’s Lauren Weber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.